Although New Zealand is enriched with its own musical history and culture, it is not an extremely common phenomenon for a Kiwi artist to breach mainstream levels of popularity in the UK. Lorde is an exception of this rule however and has garnered love from consumers and critics alike. Even David Bowie was a supporter of this unique songwriter, and there’s no higher praise than that!
The experience of listening to Lorde’s third album Solar Power can perhaps best be described by the title of its closing number Oceanic Feeling. Although there is arguably a lack of purpose and focus to this lengthy final track itself, there is so much treatment and reverb placed on particularly the vocals in this and all the other songs that it feels as if you are listening to the album whilst submerged in water. This feeling begins immediately with first track and one of the highlights of the album Path, where it draws you in, so that when the song almost imperceptibly picks up, you find yourself heavily invested in the album already, an investment strengthened by the melancholically relatable lyrics ‘we are all broken inside, where are the dreams that we had?’
It is the clean drums that help propel the brilliancy of this first track, but these seem to be lacking in other parts of the album. It is true that for tracks such as Fallen Fruit, a beautifully nostalgic and ceremonial-sounding song looking back on lost ancestors and ‘dreams too big’, the absence of drums serves the arrangement well. And indeed, this track provides the best example of the power of the simplistic instrumentation and heavily treated mixes and wonderful vocal production that abounds in the album – the solo electric guitar in Fallen Fruit sits more upfront and thus has a much more powerful effect thanks to these production techniques. However, the absence of drums in other songs where they would beneficially enlarge the mix rather than get in the way is obvious.
From this observation that some songs would be better with drums but some do well without, it is easy to surmise there are altering emotions expressed within the album. For example, the wistful Stoned at The Nail Salon, which speaks of becoming more grounded after a youthful lifestyle, echoes artists such as Birdy, with the processing of the vocals making the already beautiful lyrics and vocal melodies much more powerful and though-provoking, whereas the more adolescent coming-of-age Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen it All) murmurs more Taylor Swift pop music.
As such, Lorde’s latest album Solar Power, in spite of arguably lacking the unsurpassable catchy pop of previous singles such as Royals and Green Light (the title track does not possess nearly the same enticing properties of album-opener Path), the album will appeal to UK and Kiwi fans alike, as well as those worldwide, catering for those with an affinity to pop stylings but also for those seeking music possessing more pathos.